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Safety Pros and Cons of autonomous trucks

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While many can see driverless trucks improving safety on the roads, they can also see plenty of obstacles—including the possibility of fatal accidents like the one in Arizona last year.

“We’ve already seen a bicyclist killed by an autonomous vehicle, and that was a car,” said Jimmy DeMatteis, president of Des Moines Truck Brokers, Inc. BB #:108946 in Des Moines, IA. “Can you imagine an 80,000-pound semi killing someone?”

Kevin Small, founder and CEO of Agri-Fresh Inc., BB #:342499 a produce hauler based in Lockport, MB adds, “Computers are still going to make mistakes because you can’t program for everything.”

Accidents would surely have an impact on the future of autonomous trucking, along with a number of other infrastructure-related and technical questions that still need answers.

Just one is what would happen if a truck’s wireless connection fails in the scenario in which a human is operating a truck from a remote site?

Regulatory questions are also very much up in the air, but experts believe they will be answered as the technology evolves.

“What happens to truckers’ hours when they go off duty while the truck is on the highway? Can we allow a driver to go off duty in a truck when it is autonomous?” asks Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations for Allen Lund Company, LLC, BB #:107465 based in La Canada, near Los Angeles.

Small echoes the same thought: “I don’t know who gets to say when a driver should be involved or not.”

Viscelli says answers will become clearer in a few years. “Five years from now, I think we’ll have a much better idea of what the employment issues will be—electronic logging, for instance, and how it will be used and applied, hours of service regulations, and all that.”